Landowners and the Vineyard

October 8, 2017

In the Biblical times, as Jesus began another parable about the landowners and vineyards, the people who gathered must have thrown up their hands.  Another parable about landowners and vineyards? Really?  We have heard a few this liturgical year and most recently just two weeks ago.  One of the things about these parables is that those who listened most likely were not landowners.  So the stories intended are for them to enter from the position of the worker.  We are not the landowners of eternal life.  We are not the owners of really anything.  What we possess is of this world and sometimes our possessions possess us.  So what does Jesus want to reveal about owners and workers? The justice we see played out is about a group of workers who want to be something they are not.  They want to be owners.  They want power and position.  They feel they have the wisdom to not only work the vineyard, but to own it as their own.  They try to get it in all the wrong ways.  They feel ownership can come from bad behavior by sheer force.  Those listening see how this will not end well.  But the parable invites hope.  The landowner will not destroy the property he loves, he will allow others to do it right, he will allow others to still work the vineyard.  Opportunity is what the landowner, God our Father, is all about.  He longs for the people to realize the opportunity presented to them.  He gives them the chance to work and be taken care of by God.  Here is the opportunity to be within the walls of a Kingdom created by God.  When we try not to find power in the way the world sees it, we can gain insight into Jesus.  He tells us to serve one another.  We are to be a servant of all if we are to lead, if we are to be first.  What a gift.  When we try to be a landowner, we will always fail.  This is where sin enters, similar to the story in the Garden of Eden.  In both stories, we are tempted to be something we are not.  If those working in the Lord’s vineyard are servants, they will ask, “What more can I do?  How better can I serve?”

Today Jesus reveals potential and possibility.  Today Jesus allows us to realize we will never be landowners.  There is no sorrow or pain in this.  The owner is the protector; he built a hedge and tower to protect his vineyard, signaling to us, we would be safe.  He is always one to give us another chance.  He sends out people multiple times.  He gives us opportunity after opportunity to do the right thing.  He does not burn the place down.  He does not send an army to put the workers under house arrest.  He looks at the chance to allow them to know he longs for their work to be fruitful for him.  We can produce much fruit when we know our place.  We are dust with dignity, created in the image of God, not to be God, but to serve God.  May we relish in God who saves and protects.

Reverend John J. Ouper